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Nez/Lizer ask governors to close border liquor stores

Navajo Times | Arlyssa Becenti
On a recent weeknight at least 20 cars are parked in front of Sagebrush Liquors just outside the reservation border on Highway 264.


As COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation increased to 384 Monday and another person died, President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer wrote letters to the governors of New Mexico and Utah, urging them to shut down liquor stores on the borders of the Navajo Nation.

In the letters, Nez and Lizer accused the stores — Sagebrush Liquors near Window Rock and unnamed establishments in Mexican Hat, Utah — of allowing people to congregate and possibly spreading the coronavirus.

“This business (Sagebrush) continues to defy the New Mexico (stay-at-home) Order by remaining open for business and allowing person to congregate with more than five people,” stated Nez and Lizer in their letter to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham. “This does not help the Navajo Nation or the State of New Mexico in stemming the spread of the deadly virus.”

During a recent visit to Sagebrush Liquors at least 18 cars were seen parked in the lot.

In another letter to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Nez and Lizer brought up their concerns with Mexican Hat establishments.

“We have reason to believe our Navajo members are traveling to Mexican Hat for shopping, including alcohol, and the merchants are not abiding by the State Public Health Order recommendations for businesses,” stated the letter. “The Department of Health could close the business, or the local prosecutors may charge a business owner for violation of the Order.”

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The president and vice president have made many attempts in recent weeks to enforce social distancing and isolation such as an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that was implemented last week, no visitors or tourists, no mass gatherings and a stay-in-place order for all but essential employees. Citations are being handed out to those who aren’t adhering to these orders. 

Nonetheless confirmed cases on the reservation continue to increase, with 30 new cases since Sunday and one more death, bringing the death toll to 15.

The cases continue to be concentrated on the western side of the reservation, with Navajo (156) and Coconino (102) counties accounting for two-thirds of the cases.

Apache County, Arizona (which includes the population centers of Chinle and Window Rock) now has 37 confirmed cases; McKinley County, New Mexico 23; San Juan County, New Mexico 49; Cíbola County, New Mexico 8; Socorro County, New Mexico 2 and San Juan County, Utah holding steady at 7.

On the bright side, more than 2,100 Navajos have tested negative for the disease.

About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reported on Navajo Nation Council and Office of the President and Vice President. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent.


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